Having trees growing on your property has many benefits, including providing shade, increasing your property value, improving air quality, and even improving your mental and physical health.
That being said, there are also risks to having trees on your property, particularly if they are near to any structures.
What should you do if a tree falls on a house? Does insurance cover it?
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about what you should expect from your homeowner’s insurance in the event a tree falls on your home.
When a Tree Falls On a House: What To Do
Things like high winds, lightning, and heavy rain are common culprits that can cause a tree to fall on your house. Knowing what to do ahead of time is essential to help protect your family and help mitigate damage to your home.
When something unexpected happens, such as when a tree falls on your house, the number one priority is the safety of your loved ones. Have an evacuation plan in place in case of such an emergency. This means your family is all well aware of the best exit routes and where you all plan to safely meet up.
It’s also a good idea to have emergency bags packed and ready in case the unexpected happens. These can have essential items like a first aid kit, necessary medication, extra clothes, car keys, copies of important documents, and some cash.
Once your family has safely evacuated, call emergency services and inform them as to what happened. They will possibly send out a public utility representative or fire crew to make sure your home is safe.
Even if the branch or tree that fell on your house seems small, don’t try to deal with the problem all on your own. You especially don’t want to climb onto your room while a storm is going on. Rooftops can be slippery from rain, heavy winds can make you lose your footing, or the fallen tree could have compromised the structural integrity of your roof.
Contact Your Insurance Company
The next step after a tree falls on your house is to give your insurance company a call. We’ll take a look at what to expect from your insurance company in the next section.
Find a Trustworthy Roofing Contractor
When something as important as your home’s roof is at stake, it’s vital to find a trustworthy contractor. Unfortunately, you have to be wary of storm chasers, who scam homeowners and take advantage of their desperate situation.
Having a good, local roofing contractor picked out ahead of time in case of such an emergency can help you avoid having to make a less than ideal choice. You don’t want to be in the position where you have to take the first contractor you can find.
Secure Your Home
If the damage to your home is substantial enough, you might not be able to live there right away. If you’re staying elsewhere while the repairs are made, make sure to lock all your windows and doors. Secure anything valuable on the off chance that someone breaks into your home.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Removal After a Storm?
Whether or not tree removal is covered by your insurance has to do with where the tree fell and what caused it to collapse.
If a tree falls because of wind, fire, lightning, riot, explosion, aircraft, vandalism, theft, or vehicles you don’t own, insurance will likely cover tree removal. This is true in both the case that a tree falls on your home and if it falls on your lawn or empty property space.
Similarly, if a flood or an earthquake causes a tree to fall anywhere on your property, including your home, this won’t be covered unless you have special extra coverage.
If a storm, ice, or hail takes a tree down, the removal will be covered if the tree falls on your house. If in these same circumstances a tree falls on your lawn or empty space, however, your homeowner’s insurance most likely won’t cover it.
In these instances, if a tree falls on a shed or any other structure of your home, this would be covered the same as if it fell on your primary home.
What should you do if your neighbor has a diseased, defective, or dying tree, or potentially hazardous limbs, that could fall onto your property? The first thing you want to do is talk to your neighbor and explain the situation from your perspective and ask them to fix the problem. Then you’ll want to send them a letter putting them on notice for the hazardous tree.
It’s a good idea to take photographs and document the problem tree. Keep a copy of the letter you send and send it through certified mail.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Damage to My Home?
If a tree fell on your house, a typical homeowner’s policy will help pay for repairing the damage.The insurance company will decide whether the damage was caused by negligence or a maintenance-related issue, however, this won’t effect your insurance coverage for the loss. With that said it is still a good idea to do preventative maintenance to your property to avoid potential claims. For example if you have old or rotting trees on your property, it’s a very good idea to have them taken down before the next storm.
Neighbor’s Tree Fell On My Property: What Now?
If you find that a neighbor’s tree has fallen on your property, you might be worried this complicates your coverage. Actually, though, your homeowner’s insurance should still cover the removal in all the same instances they would if it had fallen on your own property.
It’s possible that your insurance company will try and go after your neighbor’s insurance company to recoup their losses.
It’s also important to know that if a tree fell on your car from your neighbor’s property, the removal will likely only be covered if it’s due to lightning, riot, explosion, aircraft, vandalism, theft, or vehicles not owned by you. This is because cars are not typically included in homeowner’s policies, and therefore would be treated as “empty space.”
How Much Does Insurance Pay Towards Tree Removal?
When a tree falls on your property, contact your insurer to learn how much coverage you’ll receive based on the circumstances of the claim.
If the tree falls on your house or another structure, your home insurance policy will likely completely cover the removal of the tree from the structure. If the tree has simply fallen in “empty space” and not on a structure or a vehicle, contact your insurance agent or check your policy to find out how much coverage you’ll receive.
How Much Does Homeowners Insurance Cover For a Structure Damaged By a Tree?
The answer to this question is going to depend on your specific policy. When you set up your insurance policy, you agree to certain coverage limits. These are what determine how much money your insurer will spend repairing your home from tree damage.
Your limit is the maximum dollar amount your policy will pay for any covered claim. It is possible and likely that you’ll have separate coverage limits for dwellings and other structures on your property.
Dwelling coverage is what helps cover the repair costs if your home has been damaged by a covered peril. Other structures coverage is what helps pay to repair any other structures on your property, for example, a fence or a shed.
Here’s an example. If you set your dwelling coverage limit for $400,000 when you purchased your policy, then your policy might help to pay up to $400,000 to rebuild or repair your home. Don’t forget, though, that you’ll be responsible for paying your deductible, which you typically choose when you purchase the coverage.
Choosing home insurance for your property is something that you want to do right the first time. It can be a good idea to do an annual check-up into your policy to make sure that you have the coverage you need. If there have been changes in your property, family size, or the worth of your possessions, you might want to make changes to your policy.
Should You File a Claim?
You’ll want to take your deductible into account when deciding whether or not to make an insurance claim. If your deductible is $1000, it wouldn’t make sense to file a claim for one fallen tree that caused no damage. On the other hand, if a tree did damage to your home that will be costly to fix, the cost-effective option is likely to file a claim.
Taking a good look at your insurance plan is important when it’s time to decide whether or not to make a claim. Take the time to learn whether or not making a claim will raise your premiums.
You also might not want to make a claim if you recently made a different homeowner’s insurance claim. If you file too many claims in a short period of time, your insurance company might opt to not renew your policy. This means that they can drop you as a policyholder as they deem as you as too high risk.
Unfortunately, your claims activities will follow you from one insurance company to another. This is because insurance companies have access to something called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE. This database includes all the information about the date, amount of coverage, and damage that was paid out by your insurance company.
This means that even if you try to get a new insurance company because of raised premiums at your current company, you won’t necessarily be starting with a clean slate.
How to Recognize a Tree Hazard On Your Property
While some events in our lives come out of nowhere, it’s best to prevent avoidable disasters. This means that if there are trees that are hazardous on your property, you want to take care of them before they come down on their own.
One of the most obvious and visible tree hazards is if there are broken or hanging limbs. Sometimes, though, it takes a professional tree inspector to see splits and cracks in limbs to know just how severe the damage is.
Dead limbs are another thing to look out for in the trees in your yard. These can be sometimes hard to spot, especially in the winter, and pose a fall risk.
Another thing to look out for is changes in the tree bark. While you might be able to detect this yourself, you may want a professional to take a look. They’ll have a better sense of whether or not changes in the bark are indicative of a problem.
An obvious thing to look out for is trees that are leaning in a problematic way. A leaning tree isn’t necessarily unstable, but it is something to ask a professional about if you’re unsure.
Root damage is another thing that can lead trees to become hazardous. If there has been recent construction on or near your property, it’s possible that your tree’s roots were damaged in the process. Wilting, thinning foliage, dead branches, undersized leaves, and limited growth are all signs that the roots of the trees might be damaged.
Lastly, keep an eye out for trees that are exposed and weekend. If your lot has been cleared leaving only a few trees standing, these trees are not used to being so exposed. Without the windbreak they previously had in the form of the other trees, these remaining trees are much more susceptible to wind damage.
When a Tree Falls On a House, Now You Know What to Expect
When something unexpected and destructive happens on your property, it can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. This is why it’s vital to understand the contents of your homeowner’s insurance policy before disaster strikes.
Is it time for you to set up a homeowner’s insurance policy? For more information contact your local insurance agency, LoPriore Insurance Agency.